Benefits Of Commercial Dog Allergy Tests
Dog allergy tests have been developed by veterinary companies (and other companion animals are also serviced of course). Identification of the particular allergen to which your dog is overreacting can be a lengthy process. For that reason, the development of dog allergy tests is very welcome and useful.
It saves you and your vet a lot of time, you don’t have to bring up the discipline of conducting trial & error feeding trials and provocative diets (which is often emotionally difficult to do (or at least it should be when you care deeply for your furry friend!))… 🙂
Available Serological Dog Allergy Tests
Serological dog allergy tests are immunological assays (known as ELISA assays) that detect antibodies in canine serum. Healthy dogs produce negligible amounts of IgE and IgG antibodies, whereas in allergic dogs these levels are elevated. It appears that high levels of food-specific IgG are actually a better predictor of food allergy than is the level of IgE.
Dog Food Intolerance And Dog Food Allergy Tests
Via serological tests, your veterinarian can test whether particular IgE and IgG antibodies are present. For this, a blood sample of your dog is required. This test can pinpoint the offending dog food ingredient thereby bypassing lengthy food trials and provocation testing. When you know the particular allergen, you can immediately go and look for dog food that is balanced but does not contain the specific ingredient your dog just can’t handle.
Environmental Dog Allergy Tests
When your dog is suffering from allergic symptoms I advise you to take notes about his health, his dog food and where you have been taking him every day. The last factor is of importance to identify indoor and outdoor allergens.
Environmental allergy tests measure the IgE response in your dog.
Also, you can get testing kits to easily identify particular allergens in your home environment.
Testing For Allergic Responses Towards Organisms
Immune tests are available to test for antibodies against Malassezia (a yeast infection of the skin) and Sarcoptes (parasitic mites that one dog may pass on to another).
Interpreting The Results Of Serological Dog Allergy Tests
So you’ve got your dog tested at the veterinarian’s. You call in to hear the result. The result per test can be negative, positive or inconclusive. In the latter case, the test is technically non-interpretable and needs to be repeated.
But what does this mean… positive (is that a good thing?) and negative (is that a bad thing?). Continue reading and find out! You will also learn that this is not as black and white as it may seem at this point. It is as in real life, there are a lot of greys and we’re not doing math here but biology… so life!
The Allergy Test Comes Back NEGATIVE
BLACK & WHITE INTERPRETATION
Yippie! Your dog is tolerant to the particular testing allergen. But he’s still suffering, so the allergic symptoms he is suffering from are caused by some other substance. Continued testing is required.
Your dog’s serum did not contain enough antibodies for the allergy test to detect. It is still possible though your tail-wagger is indeed suffering from hyper reactivity towards the tested allergen, but the antibodies are confined to a mucosal surface and undetectable in the serum (so the result is actually false-negative).
Another possible explanation is that the substance your dog is allergic to wasn’t part of the test panel. So… continued testing is required.
CHOOSING A VET
At times like this, you want to have a good veterinarian. One you can trust. Here’s how to look for the right vet plus a list of useful questions.
The Allergy Test Comes Back POSITIVE
BLACK & WHITE INTERPRETATION
Yippie! We have found the culprit, we will remove it from the food and/or surroundings and then we’re completely done with it, right? Or…
As this testing is done in vitro (in plastic wells), one can never be completely sure. A 100% guarantee you’ll only get by confirming this test result by… o yes… that darn dietary challenge test (first avoidance of the substance for 12 weeks and when your dog then relapses upon challenge with the original dog food, you have got yourself the guaranteed diagnosis (and a dog back in trouble)).
Also, your pooch may be allergic to other compounds that were absent in the test panel. So, only when you remove the culprit and then your dog blossoms up… only then you know you are finished with this.
A positive test result to multiple allergens does not have to be specific. Occasionally this is the result of high levels of IgE due to endo-parasitic infection or recent vaccination. In this case, you repeat the test in three months. This is called a false-positive test result.
Intra-Dermal Skin Testing
Intradermal skin testing is the standard for dog allergy tests for atopy (contact allergy). It has no relevance for dog food-induced allergies, so it is a bit outside the scope of this website. However, at the time you start identifying the allergen that causes the allergic symptoms in your dog you do not know where to look. When the symptoms are seasonal, then yes… look in your environment. But when it is whole year round, you can’t be sure at the beginning. Also, it can be both! So let’s have a glance at this.
Where for serological tests your dog could suffice by giving a blood sample, the intradermal skin testing requires more. To rule out dog food allergy you can feed a hypoallergenic dog food for 12 weeks before undergoing this pretty invasive testing procedure. Your dog’s skin is shaved and small amounts of allergen are injected on marked locations. Then after some hours have passed the skin tissue is examined.
Test results can only be reliable when your pooch is free of steroids and antihistamines for quite some time. So any medicines you are giving him to relieve some of the allergic symptoms need to be put on hold. Your veterinarian will advise you on this.
What else is on the menu?
Handpicked related content:
- Dog allergy types and the difference between allergy and intolerance.
- Guide to dog food allergy symptoms.
- Do allergy free dog breeds exist?
- How to start a feeding trial when you dog is allergic.
- Phase 2 of the feeding trial is the dog food challenge test.
- True story of a dog with multiple concurrent allergies.